PFAW Joins Senator Wyden in Unveiling Bill To Monitor Government Use of Personal Information

Bill Also Bans Government Agencies From Trolling Personal Information Without Suspicion of Actual Wrongdoing

People For the American Way President Ralph G. Neas joined Senator Ron Wyden (D-OR) and other leaders from a broad coalition of civil liberties and privacy organizations to support new legislation Wyden has authored to strengthen legal protections for personal information against government abuse.

“Right now, the government’s technological prowess is outpacing its commitment to our privacy,” said Neas. “Senator Wyden’s legislation will give congressional overseers the information they need to protect Americans from abuse at the hands of the Justice Department, the Department of Homeland Security, the CIA and other agencies.”

Senator Wyden’s legislation, “The Citizens’ Protection in Federal Databases Act,” would impose strict reporting requirements on the Department of Justice, the Department of Defense (home of the Terrorism Information Awareness office, formerly the Total Information Awareness), the CIA, the FBI, the Treasury Department and the Department of Homeland Security. Failure to comply with these requirements could lead to funding bans on future attempts to access personal information. The bill also prohibits these agencies from launching “fishing expeditions,” and searching through personal information without firm grounds that wrongdoing may have occurred.

“Negotiating the balance between individual liberty and national security is a difficult challenge in a time of threats to our safety,” said Neas. “But the administration’s response has been way out of balance. That is why there has been strong bipartisan support for Senator Wyden’s efforts to preserve the privacy rights of Americans and curtail the virtually unlimited surveillance powers sought by the administration.”

Neas said PFAW was a strong backer of legislation introduced by Senator Wyden earlier this year to provide strong limits and oversight on TIA; those protections were signed into law by President Bush in February. “Hopefully, Congress will build on its recent string of civil liberties successes and pass this legislation.”

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